Archive for the 'boat projects' Category

DIY Haul Out

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

searunner 31 trimaran preparing to haul out

searunner 31 trimaran positioned on the haul out skid

Pull up your pants!

searunner 31 trimaran starting up the slide

Cheyenne scratching mosquito bites. The mosquitos surrounded us in thick swarms to feast on deet.

haul out truck winch setup

You can see the 8000lb electric winch setup for a 2:1 pull. The blue truck in the background also has a winch connected to the brown truck to help anchor it in place.

searunner 31 trimaran being jacked up to clear the seawall

Bill arrived and found us in contemplation of the jacking.

The slide wasn’t supporting enough of the minikeel so we had to jack up the boat by the amas and lever the slide further under the boat (it wasn’t long enough to get it far enough under the boat at first). It seems scary to support the whole boat by the amas, but it has to be that strong to sail. The static weight of the main hull is only a fraction of the forces applied to the amas when beating to weather.

haul out slid problem

You can see another problem here… The hull is too wide to fit through the gap in the bulkhead.

cutting the seawall with a chainsaw

Jeff operating a chainsaw dangerously close the hull. We had to cut away part of the bulkhead to allow the hull to pass through because we couldn’t jack it up high enough.

main hull clear of the seawall

inspecting the bottom of the main hull

At this point the winch failed us. Mostly because all of the weight was still resting on a single roller that had jamed sideways. We had to do some more jacking to straighten it out.

nigerian dugout canoe

An unexpected collision with a Nigerian dugout.

searunner 31 trimaran side at an angle nearly clear of the water

searunner 31 trimaran take off

At some point near the top the winch failed again. It just couldn’t pull it any higher. Maybe the truck batteries were low. Anyhow, Jeff jumped in the truck, put it in drive and yanked it the rest of the way out with Cheyenne and I shouting “Whoaaaa! Stop. stop. Wait!”

searunner 31 trimaran haulout complete

Due to the rapid ascent we couldn’t block up the amas fast enough. You can see that the entire boat is balanced on the main hull. Cheyenne is on the other side holding it up with one hand. After this, we had to jack it up by the amas again to pull the slide out.

Rudder McBrokersons

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

We barely had time to delight in the first downwind sail we’ve had since Huatulco when the seas grew irritatingly large and the rudder broke.


I had been trying to take a morning nap after a night of no sleep (I never get more than two hours or so when underway) but was having trouble due to the uncomfortable way the boat was weaving back and forth down the waves. Just as I got up, something happened and Joshua lost control completely of the steering. The boat rounded up into the wind and just stood there, teetertottering over the oncoming waves. We pulled the centerboard down in hopes of having some control (we sometimes run with it up when running due downwind/downsea) and Joshua went back to inspect the problem area.

“The rudder is totally trashed,” came the report. “Like how trashed? TRASHED trashed? Or still sort of functional trashed?” I put my harness on and went back to see for myself.

searunner 31 broken kick-up rudder

[TRASHED trashed, but still sort of functional trashed.]

Sea and wind conditions were 6-8 feet and 25 knots, occasionally gusting to 30. I was pissed about the rudder and snuffled irritatedly in the cockpit while Joshua the fearless non-worrier made fried rice for breakfast. We were actually really lucky to be only 14 miles out from Guanaja. Unfortunately, it was all downwind sailing, which places more stress on the rudder than upwind sailing.

This boat does not have a typical skeg rudder but rather an extra-long kick-up rudder housed in a stainless box. The box is attached to the stern and the rudder is bolted at a pivot point above and held down in place with a rope. Because this type of rudder sticks down below the keel, it is particularly vulnerable so we made a fuse out of some fishing test so in case we ever hit something; then it would break and the rudder would float harmlessly to the surface to trail behind us. Hopefully we wouldn’t need to, say, steer if this ever happened. The rudder box has always been suspect in that it cracked shortly after we left San Francisco (we had it welded in Ensenada) and again around Huatulco (we had it welded again there). We are not sure what happened this time; possibly we hit a submerged log and the fuse broke or we hit nothing and the fuse broke anyway, then the following seas pushed the floating rudder across and ripped the rudder box wide open. Now the rudder is attached only at the pin (where it is in danger of twisting sideways and causing further damage) and the lower part just sloshes alarmingly free.

We went with the mainsail up only and I steered by suggestion. “Left.” “More left.” “Goddammit!” Each gust was causing the boat to head up and it was very difficult to get back to where we wanted to be without putting any pressure on the rudder. Joshua put up the storm jib and pulled it in tightly; now when the gust caused us to head up, the wind would push against the jib and have us back on course (mostly) shortly thereafter. We wobbled our way to Guanaja making around 5 to 6 knots and happily rounded the reefs to the anchorage after only a few nerve-fraying hours.

Again, we are lucky in that Guanaja has a large fleet of working fishing boats. A welder was recommended to us almost immediately and tomorrow we will take our broken rudder box to him and see what we can do. We will not be able to just weld the box back together at this point but we think we can cut the bottom part off and fabricate a new piece to bolt directly to the lower part of the rudder itself.

So now we’re Destination: Texas, where Joshua’s family lives and we can haul out and fix stuff. Among other things (an irritating leak in the centerboard trunk will require attention soon) we will see about building a new, more solid rudder and ditch this kick-up bullshit altogether.

The Last of the Painting, I Mean It.

Friday, September 29th, 2006

We are done painting. Well, not actually DONE done, but done enough. During this time, the whole boat has been in an uproar: a minefield of scattered painting equipment, gaping holes where the trampolines are untied, various logs scattered about waiting to be triped over, and freshly painted ‘wet’ spots, which we can’t touch until we feel the paint has completely set. The dinghy has been migrating all over the boat as we have been covering the hulls with fresh paint. Last week I chucked the coffee grounds right into it, since it was not in its customary location. Freakin’ mess, that was. If we could have hauled the boat out or something, all the work could have been completed at once and the pain in the ass, although acute, would have been short lived. As it was, we had to beach the boat upon the sandbar every day where we had maybe three hours of work time without water underfoot. Basically we would push the Time Machine over with the dinghy (the outboard is currently on the dinghy), snag the mooring ball over the shallow bar, kick up the rudder, and wait. Once the center hull touched bottom, we would spring into action and begin tying our support sticks (7-foot long sturdy drift-logs we scavenged off the beach) to the A-frames. This would keep the boat upright as the water receded, leaving the amas floating in air. As soon as the boat settled and the amas were out of the water, we hop into the knee-deep water and run around the boat scraping crap off the bottom and getting ready to do what we had to do for the day. Once the water was almost gone, we sand or paint as fast as we could until the water started to come back in. We’d generally be still sloshing around until it was knee-deep again before climbing back onto the boat to wait for the amas to float. Then we’d untie the support sticks and wait some more while the boat bumped around until it was finally free. Then we’d push it back over to deeper water to anchor as usual. We had to do this seven times to get the bloody thing painted.

The two-part epoxy paint still sucks balls but we are stubborn enough that we decided to deal with it until the entire hull was painted. In addition to the hellish paint situation, we have been having all sorts of issues with our generator. We got gas at the hotel a while back and something was up with it because as soon as we filled the tanks of our outboard and generator, they stopped running. This caused considerable consternation on our parts. We didn’t know what the problem was for some time but suspected the gas after we had the oil changed by a local dude and he took an alarming amount of water and grit out of the fuel tank. We mentioned this in passing once to Murray, who has a small haul-out facility here and works closely with the hotel to make it ‘cruiser-friendly’ and he was very defensive. “I buy more gas here than ANYBODY on the ENTIRE estuary and have been for four years and I have never, NEVER, gotten any bad gas.” He went on in this vein for some time and we were sorry we had mentioned it but we still weren’t convinced it wasn’t the gas. We got some other gas from the Texaco up the way and it was fine. So to make a long and wholly infuriating story short, both generator and outboard are running more or less okay in the end. We made one trip to San Salvador for spark plugs and another to Zacatecaluca for more; Joshua took the generator apart no less than five times and the outboard, three. Much swearing occurred. Both seem to be going through the spark plugs with the suspect gas but seem to run okay and normally with the other gas. Joshua thought maybe it had diesel mixed in with it. We noticed yesterday that there is a “sale” on regular at the hotel gas station: $2.85/gallon. We’re not falling for that shit.

In the meantime, we applied the nonskid finally to the topsides of the amas. The paint was Petit ‘Pearl Gray,’ which we had leftover from the States. It is a one-part standard boat paint and it went on beautifully. Amazingly. I was in raptures applying it, seriously. I put on one coat plain and then mixed the nonskid (a kind of pointy plastic sand) in to the paint for the second coat. Usually, with an aggressive nonskid like the one we were applying, it is generally sprinkled onto wet paint, then the remaining unstuck sand is vacuumed up, then a final coat is applied over the top to hold it down. Because, as I may have mentioned once or twice, it is typically no less than two billion degrees during the day, paint dries practically the moment it is applied. Which is why I mixed the sand with the paint to apply with a roller. It required irritating fanaticism to lay down evenly but it worked out in the end. Once applied, it looked awesome and in our zeal to behold the miracle, we happily ripped off the masking tape and headed triumphantly to the hotel to drink a cold beverage and brag to the Internet about how awesome we were.

We gave it a day or two to really set before we dared to dip a toe upon the decks. I decided to test a spot under where the cleat would go to see if I could rub off the nonskid (to see if it was stuck down well enough—a test that may have been more prudent to do, say, the same day we painted) and, it just came right off. Oh Crap. There was no way in hell that I was going to do any more sanding on the nonskid and so fuckit, I just dusted it off and painted another coat right over the top. Joshua re-taped for me. Now, it looks exactly right and the non-skid is completely stuck down. So…cough… I just hope that it doesn’t peel up or whatever horrible thing is supposed to happen if you don’t sand before painting.

We got the generator running just in time to go back up on the bar again. This time we were going to sand the main hull and paint it; it would take us two days on the bar. Day 1 went basically fine, except I didn’t lash my support sticks as well as Joshua did and mine settled too far into the sand, setting the boat at an alarming tilt. The ama wasn’t exactly touching the sand on one side, but close. Oops. Sanding sucked as it always does and we floated off the bar six hours later a dusty, muddy mess.

Day 2: Joshua had the brilliant plan to lay the boat on the bar ass-end to the outgoing current (normally we are nose into the current). The reasoning here is so that the outer ama we wanted to touch up (remember the gashes the port-a-bote made?) would be in the shade and maybe some other reasons. This was very awkward because with the current, we fishtailed around and finally settled at a rakish 45-degree angle to the current. The stern then proceeded to kick up all sorts of funky eddy things and dig itself way down into the sand so that the boat finally settled pointing up. Looked flat-out ridiculous but whatever. We could still reach the tip of the nose to paint so we didn’t fuss too much over it. Then this gnarly wind kicked up. This made painting nearly unbearable and once again, I burst into tears at the evilness of this paint. With the wind though, paint was flying everywhere. Pouring it from the canister into the tray was a major feat and we had to hunker down under the wing of the ama to find a less-windy spot so that the paint stream wouldn’t atomize and spray all over us. Not that we escaped being covered head to toe with bits of paint cobweb and splatters. I even got it in my eye at one point, causing Joshua to freak out and dump a bunch of funky estuary water up my nose in an attempt to “flush” out my eye. Gack. It’s still all over my face in hopes that it will be easier to rub off after a few days.

We got about two and a half coats on the mainhull and decided to call it done. We were out of paint and didn’t have time to mix more before the tide came back in anyway. From a distance it looks pretty good.

Searunner 31 Time Machine at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

Victorious and Triumphant

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

Topsides nonskid ON.

searunner 31 non-skid paint


searunner 31 non-skid paint

That’s what I’M talking about!

Painting the Boat, Part MCIXVIII

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Outer ama hulls painted. I repeat: outer ama hulls painted. This is a good thing. We grounded the boat twice in order for this feat of amazing productivity to be accomplished.

* Hull sides painted: 2; (sides remaining: 4 [motherfucker!])
* Problems beaching the boat using ingenious scavenged stick method (see photos): none!
* Trips to San Salvador required since we started with the beaching: Zee-ro. Zip. Null. None. Nada. (Trips to San Salvador in our near future because we ran out of goddamned paint: 1)
* Times we had to jury-rig something: 4
* Times I burst out sobbing during the procedure: 1
* How it looks: um, okay I guess.

Basically, with thinner, the two-part epoxy paint is mostly manageable. It still dries in about eight seconds, leaving you frenzied and panicked as you paint out of fear that A) it will drip; B) it will dry before you can smooth it in; C) it will drip, then dry before you can smooth it down; D) all of the above plus ugly cobwebs of sticky epoxy paint will go flying through the air. D is the winner here, if you hadn’t guessed but I’ve come up with a marvelous coping mechanism, which is promising myself that we will go to the hotel and have steakburgers (a major splurge) after we finish, even if it is uneven, drippy, and I have epoxy cobwebs in my eyelashes. Worked out okay. The steakburgers were pretty darned good.

Two-part epoxy paint is such a major pain in the ass I really can’t shut up about it. Once it is on the boat it seems pretty bomber—it is incredibly sticky, that’s for sure; sticky enough to last another decade I hope. But mixing the stuff. Argh. First you must mix the cans individually (well, one of them), then scoop equal parts of each—the paint/color and the catalyst/hardener. This part sucks because both parts are very thick—the hardener is the consistency of cold honey but much, much stickier and stringier and one puff of wind and it flies all over the place. What doesn’t go flying about the cockpit in the wind drips all over the side of the paint can and mix-paint receptacle and plastic throw. The hardener is colorless (like honey) and magically spreads itself all over everything; and it is toxic, therefore requiring even more toxic solvents to clean it up. Did I mention that many people, like Joshua, have a poison oak-like reaction to epoxy hardener? This makes it so much fun. Then you have to mix the two parts thoroughly or else it, god forbid, might not work properly (and I would cry). Then it must sit for half of an hour while it does *something*. Then you must mix in the thinner chemical (and mix it well) or else the paint behaves atrociously. A lot of bloody work for just some paint and we haven’t even gotten to the part where you pour it into your paint tray, trying not to let the wind blow the lightweight mostly-empty tray all around while the paint drips all over hell and gone. Oh, and by the way, the paint tends to dissolve all those nice neat foam brushes and rollers that happen to be my preferred painting implement. You have to have some special rollers that aren’t affected by the chemical and we haven’t tried yet, but I daresay they aren’t available in all of El Salvador. Hopefully the few we brought with us from the States hold out. All of the above issues are enhanced by the fact that it is windy and about twelve thousand degrees over the sandbar (this sand is dark gray and can get really hot). And did I mention that two-part epoxy paint with added epoxy thinner makes you high?

So. Tomorrow’s plan was to beach the boat again (we have about three more days of good tidal timing), ready the insides of the amas for painting and sand/scrape as much of the main hull as possible. Except, the generator just stopped working. Again. So, I guess we’ll be taking apart the generator tomorrow. Maybe try to get in a trip to San Salvador.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell